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Wright puts ref on spot after Celtic recover to extend run

St Johnstone 2 Celtic 5

By Ronnie Esplin

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright criticised referee Craig Thomson for awarding Celtic a controversial penalty in the Hoops' 5-2 Ladbrokes Premiership win at McDiarmid Park yesterday.

The Saints had gone into the break leading 2-1 after a Keith Watson header and an own goal by Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata had overturned an opener from Liam Henderson.

They were denied a penalty when Danny Swanson was challenged by Hoops skipper Scott Brown but Thomson did point to the spot when a Kieran Tierney cross struck Watson, though it seemed to hit the defender on the hip.

With his first touch, substitute Moussa Dembele scored the penalty and grabbed another two for his hat-trick with Scott Sinclair also notching as Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers' side extended their unbeaten domestic run since the start of the season to 29 games.

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright was also peeved that Thomson had only warned Boyata after he tangled with Saints defender Joe Shaughnessy in the Celtic box.

The Saints boss said: "There are game changers and certainly there are three big game changers in that second half.

"It is not a penalty. If I live to be 100 it should never be a penalty. How he gives it is beyond me. He couldn't wait to give it.

"I shouted to him (referee) on the pitch and he gestured that both hands were up and it was almost as if he had caught the ball. It hit his hip.

"It does touch his elbow which is held in but you can't see that until you see the camera angle from behind the goal. He has to be 100 per cent sure. It turned the whole dynamic of the game. It gives a great side like Celtic a massive lift and almost knocked the stuffing out of us.

"Danny Swanson should have had a penalty. Brendan would be disappointed if that wasn't given for him. Brown doesn't get anything on the ball, Danny's knee goes inwards so there is contact. It is a penalty. With Joe Shaughnessy, the ball is in flight, he is dragged to the ground. He warns the Celtic player. That is a penalty. You don't warn players."

Rodgers, whose side moved 27 points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the table with their 19th consecutive league win, had sympathy with his fellow Ulsterman regarding the penalty.

He said: "If I am Tommy I am disappointed. Lots of decisions that I see up here are funny ones.

"As a manager I am absolutely delighted that I got it but from Tommy's perspective he will be bitterly disappointed."

Asked how he compared the standard of refereeing between Scotland and England, the former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: "It is a difficult job. I am not going to go into it here.

"It is a difficult job for them and I have seen it in a lot of the games. They are not full-time, it is not their professional job.

"They come into big games, pressure games. I saw a decision in the Rangers game which bamboozled me.

"The ball was kicked out by a Rangers player and they get a throw-in. They are good guys, they are all doing their best."

ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Watson, Shaughnessy, Scobbie, Easton, Foster (MacLean, 78 mins), Paton, Wotherspoon (Alston, 70 mins), Swanson, Davidson, Cummins. Unused subs: Manus, Millar, Smith, Craig, Thomson.

CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Boyata, Tierney, Bitton, Brown, Mackay-Steven (Dembele, 59 mins), Henderson (McGregor, 71 mins), Sinclair, Roberts (Ciftci, 86 mins). Unused subs: De Vries, Simunovic, Gamboa, Forrest

Referee: Craig Thomson

Man of the match: Moussa Dembele

Match rating: 8/10

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